Why native plants?
Habitat for Wildlife
“Monarchs are simply a flagship species for everything else that’s happening out there. If you look at where monarchs live, they live in habitats that are kind of marginal, but those marginal habitats support most of our pollinators. Those marginal habitats support a lot of small mammals and ground-nesting birds, and if we lose the monarchs, it means we’re going to lose all those things. And the one thing people perhaps do not grasp is that it’s the pollinators that keep everything knitted together out there. I mean, there’s a fabric of life out there (that) maintains these ecosystems, and it’s the pollinators that are critical here. They pollinate about 70 percent of that vegetation. If we don’t have the pollinators, that means we’re going to be losing a lot of plants, then you lose a lot of organisms that are dependent on specific plants and so on and so forth. You know, my plea is that we have to maintain these habitats, not only for monarch butterflies, but for everything else, because it’s really in our best interest to do so.”
Founder of Monarch Watch
Nectar and Food
Did you plant a (potentially invasive) butterfly bush to attract butterflies? They do come to the bush to drink its nectar, but it is not a known host plant for any native butterfly larvae. Here is just a sample of butterflies and their larvael host plants sold by Riverview Nursery.
Monarchs: Butterfly Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed
Silvery Checkerspot: Pale Purple Coneflower, Purple Coneflower, Downy Sunflower, Yellow Coneflower
Parthenice Tiger Moth: Ironweed
Black swallowtail: Golden Alexander
Skippers: Wild Blue Indigo
Painted Lady: Swamp Rose Mallow
Sulfurs: Wild Senna, Wild Blue Indigo
The native columbine with its long tubular red and yellow blooms looks similar to a hummingbird feeder and it blooms just as the hummers return to Indiana from migration and need food, unlike the non-native columbines found in most gardens. Prairie drop seed has extremely nutritious seed that is devoured by song birds. Switchgrass provides excellent cover and food for ducks, upland game birds (such wild turkeys, pheasants and northern bobwhite) and songbirds.
Improve Water Quality
Native plants with their deep roots in a rain garden, bioswale or at the water’s edge encourage storm water and its associated pollutants to infiltrate into the ground instead of running into our streams, rivers and lakes. Some communities offer incentives to create rain gardens. Not only will you help improve water quality, you will have a beautiful garden to enjoy. We offer many plants suitable for this use.
Low maintenance/Different Management
While there is no such thing as a no maintenance landscape, native plants are low maintenance. Once established, native plants do not need watering. Even in times of drought when the foliage is stressed, the deep roots do not need water, but if the plant is part of your landscape, you can water it to keep the foliage nice. Properly spaced and mulched, weeding is minimal. No nutrients are needed as they will get what they need from the soil. Of course, do not use pesticides as that kills pollinators and caterpillars as well as the insects that birds need for food. Native plants are cold hardy, of course. Why such low maintenance? They are adapted to our soil and weather conditions.
You will need to manage your native plant garden, though. Part of the joy of gardening is to watch the garden come into its own, with editing by you to keep a pleasing design. Remove unwanted seedlings as your garden thrives. Cut back the foliage in spring, making sure you do not harm overwintering caterpillars and native bees. In the fall, leave the leaf litter to provide habitat.
Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home makes an articulate case for using native plants in suburban landscapes. From his website: "As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, and the need to do so has never been so great. All we need to do is plant native plants!"
Milkweed is necessary for monarchs to live and it supports pollinators.